The two Democrats in the state’s House caucus voted for their fellow Democrat Hakeem Jeffries as Jordan’s bid seems to fade.
By Christina Lieffring, THE BADGER PROJECT
Wisconsin’s two Democratic Representatives, Gwen Moore and Mark Pocan, voted for Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, which fell short by five votes of reaching the 217 needed to instate Jeffries.
The six Wisconsin Republicans also voted to retain Rep. Kevin McCarthy as Speaker when he was narrowly ousted earlier this month, plunging the House into chaos.
After Jordan lost a second vote on Wednesday, his chances of winning the Speakership, a seat second-in-line to the presidency, seemed to be teetering.
U.S. Rep Jim Jordan, a founder of the far-right “Freedom Caucus,” had been a controversial figure before becoming a “significant player,” in the words of the January 6th Committee, in former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. When he was Speaker, former Rep. John Boehner, a fellow Republican, called Jordan a “legislative terrorist.” He helped force Boehner out of the top job.
Jordan’s critics frequently point to his minimal legislative record, noting that he has never gotten a bill signed into law in his 16 years in the House.
A two-time national championship wrestler at UW-Madison and a former assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University, Jordan is also accused by former wrestlers of turning a blind eye to the sexual abuse of a team doctor.
Democrats intend to run attack ads against Republicans who support the controversial figure for Speaker, and those tactics could affect at least two Wisconsin congressmen, party operatives have announced.
Barry Burden, a UW-Madison political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center there, said the Republicans most likely to vote against Jordan represent swing districts that went for Biden in 2020. Of the six Wisconsin representatives, Rep. Bryan Steil of southeastern Wisconsin’s 1st District, and Rep. Derrick Van Orden of western Wisconsin’s 3rd have the most competitive districts, but they both “tilted just slightly toward Trump in 2020,” Burden noted.
“So they apparently did not view the vote for Jordan as a significant threat to their electoral safety,” Burden said. “Nonetheless, both of them should expect the votes to be mentioned by their Democratic opponents as we approach next year’s congressional elections.”
In fact, Burden said Van Orden’s political brand is in line with Jordan’s.
“Of the two (Wisconsin) legislators, Van Orden is a more controversial figure and was even at the U.S. Capitol (grounds) during the January 6 insurrection,” Burden said. “Supporting a Speaker candidate who voted against counting the electoral votes that day does not deviate much from the confrontational reputation he has already developed.”
Kathleen Dolan, political science professor at UW-Milwaukee, agrees that Democratic opponents are likely to use that vote in their campaigns next year, but said the bigger risk for Van Orden and Steil is if the House continues to be dysfunctional under a Republican majority.
“If Rep. Jordan doesn’t become speaker and this drags on for a while, I think the representatives might get more guff for being part of the party that has had a good bit of dysfunction in these last few weeks,” Dolan said. “I think probably the stickier argument would be how they have been sitting in a party that can’t run its affairs. And the reason that voters might want to make a change is to help return to a Democratic majority, which, whether or not you agree with what they do, at least has a better track record of running the government.”
Dolan points out that the election is still a year away, and most voters’ memories are short.
“The average person isn’t going to remember that Jim Jordan was a potential candidate for speaker, but they will probably hear much more from the Democrats and from opponents to (Steil and Van Orden) that the Republicans haven’t done anything,” Dolan said
“The question is going to be how long this goes on,” she added. “We’re just going to have to see how long this takes them.”